A group of some 180-plus men met brutal deaths in defiance of a dictator and the principle of self-governance 180 years ago last Sunday.

A group of some 180-plus men met brutal deaths in defiance of a dictator and the principle of self-governance 180 years ago last Sunday.
The Alamo. Almost everyone knows of it. The name has been used to symbolically represent a last stand of any kind for such a long time that I would be surprised to meet someone who hasn’t at least heard the name.
Why are the deaths of those men in a crumbling adobe mission March 6, 1836, in San Antonio, Texas, still important today? Because it represents the gritty part of the American spirit. It’s that never-give-up attitude for something so lofty as an ideal or maybe, dare I say, for something so simple as the ability to say, “Stick it.”
When Mexico declared independence from Spain in 1821, the province of Texas (or Tejas) was sparsely settled. What citizens lived there were under constant attack from the Native American population, namely the Comanche, which actually were relative newcomers to the region.
To populate the area, the Mexican government encouraged colonization from the United States, with the idea that the American immigrants would tame the land for Mexico by fighting the Indian tribes. That they did, but they quickly grew in populace and soon outnumbered the native Mexican population. By 1834, Texas had more than 30,000 inhabitants, most of whom were American colonists.
A decade earlier, the new Mexican constitution had combined Texas with the state of Coahuila, giving the people of Texas little representation in Mexico City, hundreds of miles away. When leading American colonist, Stephen F. Austin, traveled to Mexico City in 1833 to advocate for separate Texas statehood (under Mexico), he was arrested on the return trip under suspicion of inciting revolt and thrown into prison.
Meanwhile, Antonio López de Santa Anna forcefully seized power in Mexico and soon revealed himself as a dictator, demanding a strong central government as opposed to the federal system implemented by the constitution of 1824.
Long story short, the people of Texas ultimately rebelled in the name of home rule (though independence actually wasn’t declared until the middle of the siege of the Alamo). Following a number of battles and skirmishes at various places, the Texans fought for and took over the Alamo, an old Spanish mission on what was the outskirts of San Antonio.
Santa Anna surprised everyone by leading a forced march in the middle of winter and surrounding the Alamo with an army of several thousand troops. For 13 days, the garrison at the Alamo, under the leadership of William Barrett Travis and to a lessor degree Jim Bowie (who was bedridden) and Davy Crockett, held out in the face of overwhelming numbers without losing a man. They were buying time for the main Texan army under Sam Houston to build and organize.
In the early morning hours of the 13th day of the siege, March 6, 1836, Santa Anna ordered a general assault. After a 90-minute battle, every defender inside the Alamo was slaughtered.
Even by conservative estimates, they killed many times their number before their bloody deaths. They didn’t know that the provisional Texas government had declared independence and created the Republic of Texas four days before.
Among the dead defenders were Missourians William Baker, George Butler, Charles Clark, Jerry Day and George Tumlinson. At the moment of their untimely deaths by bullet or bayonet, I have no doubt they considered themselves Texans. Their bodies were burned with the rest of the defenders, on order of Santa Anna.
Santa Anna was defeated in battle a month and a half later at a place called San Jacinto near present-day Houston with cries of “Remember the Alamo!” splitting the air as Texas won her freedom. Texas remained an independent nation until it annexed to the United States in 1845 to become the 28th state.
It’s fashionable in some circles to trash the legacy of the men who died at the Alamo, as we are urged to look back at history through the filtered eyeglass of 21st-century ideology.
I will always revere and will never forget the men of the Alamo. They stood up for home rule. They stood up for self-governance. They stood up so they could tell a dictator just where he could go.
Sometimes that’s enough in itself as far I’m concerned. When faced with death for doing so, they didn’t back down. They didn’t surrender. They fought and died like men. That should mean something still, even in today’s world. Remember the Alamo.

Wes Franklin writes a weekly column.